Tenino, WA- A lot of info. on this, so please bear with me. Erik Kohnhorst said that 26-year old Bernard “Keith” Howell III appeared on his doorstep Sunday afternoon looking agitated, covered in sweat and desperate. Kohnhorst said Howell wanted his help moving something and when Kohnhorst asked if it was heavy, Howell replied , “Yeah.” I am guessing Howell didn’t get the help he needed from Kohnhorst because hours later another man spotted Howell alone on Highway 507 near a bike trail. The man said Howell was trying to load something into the passenger side of his truck and said to him, “Help me with this body.” The man became frightened and he refused to help Howell. The man then drove into town and flagged down a deputy. The man told the deputy of his creepy encounter and while decribing Howell’s vehicle to the officer, Howell’s truck drove by. The deputy immediately pulled Howell over and inside the cab the deputy found the body of a middle aged woman wrapped inside plastic and a sleeping bag.
Police say Howell admitted to the deputy he had a body in his pickup and said he found the body along the trail. Howell said he found the woman already deceased and he knew her family could not afford a funeral, so he was going to bury her for them. Police say that Howell said he planned on submerging the body. Inside the vehicle, officers found a 10-pound weight (which they believe was to help the body sink), and the wallet and keys of the victim stashed under the front seat. Authorities have not yet identified the woman, but the case is being investigated as a homicide. A vehicle was found in the area belonging to a Yelm woman who has been missing since Sunday morning, but investigators are not sure if it is the same woman found dead in Howell’s truck. Investigators believe Howell killed the woman while she was out on a bike ride alone on the bike trail between Tenino and Yelm.
Bernard K. Howell III, of Tenino, was booked in jail for investigation of second-degree murder and first-degree theft, the theft charge was added because police believe Howell may have taken the victim’s vehicle after the crime. His bail was set at $750,000. Police said that after a night in jail Howell changed his story a touch and told them that he sexually assaulted the woman but he did not kill her. Howell’s father, Bernard Howell, Jr., said his son owned his own beef company called “Tenino Meat” in which he sold beef out of a freezer on the back of his pickup. Howell Jr. said his son’s business was struggling lately and he may have been angry and using methamphetamine Sunday afternoon. He also said his son is a good man who has not been in serious trouble before.
Prosecutors say Howell has a history of mental illness. Howell faces another court hearing Thursday where prosecutors hope to charge him then send him to Western State Hospital for a full evaluation. Police are also looking into whether Howell has anything to do with a Tenino woman named Nancy Moyer who disappeared last year. The 36-year old mother was last seen in March of 2009. Moyer’s front door was found open, with all her belongings still inside and her car still in the driveway. As her home is not far from Sunday’s murder scene, investigators say it’s too much of a coincidence to not take a close look at it.Tags: body, homicide, Murder, Theft, truck, Washington